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With Hasbro Acquisition, Is eOne Planning to Offload Family-Unfriendly Properties?

Shirley Halperin and Will Thorne

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Hasbro’s $4 billion acquisition of eOne in August instantly put the Canadian toy giant in the league of major entertainment and content companies thanks to eOne’s arsenal of IP assets in music, television and film. But does the self-described “family brands” business that’s home to The Game of Life and My Little Pony align with a property named Death Row Records?

That’s what music industry insiders are wondering as the business takes stock of this new player, particularly if those very properties are up for sale.

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Death Row, co-founded by Dr. Dre and Suge Knight in 1991 and known for blazing the trail for the “gangsta rap” of the 1990s, is home to music by Dre (including the influential 1992 album “The Chronic”), Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg, among others. Although it’s been dormant for the better part of a decade, with Knight in and out of prison during that time, its recordings and copyrights generate steady income for the nearly half-century old eOne.

What is the music arm worth? Consider that Big Machine Label Group, a music company which was home to six albums by Taylor Swift, sold for $300 million recently. By comparison, eOne has under its umbrella nearly a dozen labels, including Dualtone, home to the Lumineers, and premium music library Audio Network Production Music, acquired by eOne just this year. And as Wall Street would tell any interested listener, music is a hot investment right now.

But a source tells Variety that despite the speculation and industry chatter, eOne’s new owners are “not interested in selling.” In fact, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner has repeatedly voiced his feelings on music being omnipresent — in everything — and excitement over having a music division.

A Hasbro spokesperson did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.

Goldner touted the creative opportunities in both the film and TV space that new properties such as “Peppa Pig” and “PJ Masks” will afford the toy giant during a session Wednesday at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York City. “In eOne, we have the family brands business which has a number of notable pieces of entertainment and the most toy-etic of which are ‘Peppa Pig’ and ‘PJ Masks,’”he said.

Goldner went on to reveal that Hasbro plans to recapture the license fees from around the world on eOne’s biggest properties, which he said will recuperate a substantial amount of lost revenue for the company.

The Hasbro chief admitted that the company has been approached about making live action adaptations of its properties for the film and TV space, but it “did not have the skill set” to pull it off prior to the eOne acquisition.

“eOne not only has that skill set, but they’ve been using best practices to build a profitable television and film business,” he said.

Goldner added that developing the worlds of two of the company’s most popular properties in “Magic the Gathering” and “Dungeons and Dragons” for the screen remains a top priority.

The company reached a deal with Joe and Anthony Russo to bring an animated “Magic” to Netflix in June, and Gardner teased that there will be more to come on the “Dungeons and Dragons” front.

“What we’re really seeing is that these are not monolithic brands, ‘D&D’ for example has many different story arcs that have been developed,” he said. “We see the opportunity to develop content there that sits alongside and grows the salience and resonance of that brand with those audiences.”

The music side agrees that there is much opportunity to be found in film and television for their artists and projects, including those “seminal recordings” in the Death Row catalog, says an insider who adds, “Peppa Pig and Death Row have been together for a decade. They’re equally important pieces of IP.”

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